As if cold and flu season isn’t tough enough, add to it the reality that pink eye is often rampant this time of year. The telltale signs of redness and a gritty-like-sand feeling in the eye can certainly feel like a low blow when you’re already laying low with a cold or the flu.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a common eye infection that causes inflammation of the thin membrane that coats the whites of your eyes (the conjunctiva) and the inside lining of the eyelids. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or, less frequently, allergens. The same viruses that cause colds and the flu—such as adenovirus, enterovirus, and influenza virus—can also cause pink eye.
It’s possible for cold and flu viruses to reach the eye from the nose by travelling through the tear duct, but hygiene is the more likely risk factor for developing pink eye. If you fail to wash your hands after you blow your nose and then you rub your eyes, you’re giving the virus or bacteria a free ride to your eyes.
Notorious for being highly contagious from one person to another or from one eye to the other, pink eye causes uncomfortable symptoms such as:
- Redness in the white of the eye and/or inner eyelid
- Itchy, burning, or gritty-feeling eyes
- Increased tear production
- Watery white or greenish discharge
- Thick yellow discharge that crusts over eyelashes, especially after sleeping
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s important to get your eyes checked by an eye doctor so they can properly diagnose your condition and prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment if necessary. Some severe forms of viral pink eye may spread to the cornea, which can lead to eyesight impairment, so don’t put off getting your eyes checked.
The best way to avoid getting pink eye during cold and flu season is to wash your hands often and keep them away from your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, be sure to thoroughly wash and dry your hands before putting them in or taking them out.
Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice with offices in Knoxville, TN and Morristown, TN. Our physicians provide exceptional eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to complex eye surgeries. Schedule an appointment with one of our trusted physicians online or by calling 865-579-3920.